The New England Patriots bowled over the Carolina Panthers with another productive rushing performance, but they finished the game with just one healthy ball-carrier.
Lead back Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson both exited New England’s 24-6 win at Bank of America Stadium with head injuries, according to the team.
Harris suffered his when defensive end Brian Burns fired off the edge to blow up a fourth-quarter handoff. Stevenson was injured four minutes earlier after being tackled on an 11-yard carry. Both injuries occurred during the same Patriots drive.
Stevenson, who’s been a healthy scratch for four of New England’s nine games, had his best outing as a pro against Carolina, rushing for 62 yards on 10 carries and adding a team-high 44 receiving yards on two catches. Forty-one of those came on one highlight-reel catch-and-run from quarterback Mac Jones.
Harris was less productive Sunday (15 carries, 30 yards) but extended his touchdown streak to five games with a three-yard second-quarter plunge.
The Patriots entered the game with three active running backs: Harris, Stevenson and third-down back Brandon Bolden, who rushed for 54 yards on eight carries and caught a 28-yard deep ball on third-and-5. Second-year pro J.J. Taylor was a healthy inactive.
New England rushed for a season-high 151 yards in the win, largely ignoring the passing game against a Panthers team that boasts one of the NFL’s top pass defenses.
Head coach Bill Belichick did not share an update on Harris’s or Stevenson’s condition after the game. Losing both for any substantial period likely would necessitate a roster move.
The Patriots also lost two other players to injury Sunday with wide receiver Gunner Olszewski suffering a concussion on a kick return and tight end Jonnu Smith aggravating a shoulder ailment. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry missed the game with a knee injury.
The 5-4 Patriots will look to extend their winning streak to four games when they host the 5-4 Cleveland Browns next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.